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David Novak on The Liberal Government’s COVID Failure: “We Can’t Afford to Disengage with Things that Make Us Feel Helpless”

“It all starts with acknowledgement and collective outrage,” explains Novak. “But this needs to be sustained.”

Image of Polish Club's David Novak and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose COVID response has been heavily criticised

Supplied; Eesan1969/Creative Commons

Close to 18 months on from when COVID first affected Australians in ways that many never thought possible, the global health crisis continues. However, while many countries around the world have managed to effectively vaccinate an overwhelming portion of their populace (such as the United States of America), countries such as Australia lag so far behind to the point where it often feels as though we’re going backwards.

What was once an air of optimism at reopening venues, rescheduled family gatherings, and the return of an all-too familiar sense of normalcy was quickly replaced by negativity, despondence, and – most worryingly – complacency as states such as Victoria and New South Wales found themselves plunged into yet another lockdown.

With New South Wales announcing the extension of their current lockdown, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison holding a press conference yesterday to state that a chance of avoiding such a measure was “completely and utterly false” had Australia actually attempted something close to an effective vaccine rollout, Polish Club’s David Novak has penned an editorial of his own thoughts following the self-described “meltdown” he experienced watching Morrison’s press conference.


Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister in nothing but name. He has utterly failed the nation and refuses to take any responsibility or action in what is surely the important moment for a national leader in our lifetime.

I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, but I feel compelled to at least write something down, because there’s not much else I can actively do right now as I sit in Sydney’s “don’t call it a lockdown” lockdown. We are at the mercy of a broken government propped up by unbalanced national media.

We are indeed lucky to live in a country that has largely been spared a lot of the dangers of things like COVID-19. I’m lucky to have support that is both emotional and financial. But I refuse to let those privileges prevent me from demanding more from our failing government. And I implore everyone else to realise that just because we haven’t yet experienced the worst of it in the world, we still need to call out our faults and shortcomings. The fact that we avoided the worst of the initial effects of the pandemic, doesn’t excuse the fact that we remain dead last on the list of OECD countries’ vaccination rates.

At every opportunity the federal government has passed the buck, to state leaders, to health officials, to its own citizens. It has not even remotely reflected on its own ineptitude in its utterly botched vaccine rollout. The LNP put all of our eggs in one Astra Zeneca-shaped basket. The same company that has a former LNP lobbyist and chief of staff on its board of directors. The same company that has a vaccine that the government can’t seem to decide upon whether or not to approve doses for people of a certain age.

And a different company to Pfizer, whose offer to supply us with as many doses of their vaccine as we wanted in 2020, was swiftly rejected by the LNP. Every attempt to catch up is announced by the LNP as if these actions are victories instead of things that should’ve happened months ago when the party line was “it’s not a race”.

“Instead of accountability and action, we are treated to gaslighting and irrelevant excuses.”

Instead of accountability and action, we are treated to gaslighting and irrelevant excuses. The constant mention of “at least you’re not dead like in other countries.” Praise for our “strong mental health system”, when we have a national mental health crisis. The casual fawning of national sport in the same breath as COVID updates (yeah, huge congrats to our olympians for their future trip to a country that is considering a state of emergency); we somehow have full capacity crowds at sporting events while the entire arts community is in a holding pattern of confusion and cancellation.

Then there’s the “gold standard” NSW Liberal state government. A “gold standard” that let the Ruby Princess in, kicking off the first round of infections, which predictably resulted in no accountability. A “gold standard” that waited to see the latest outbreak spread from the wealthy Eastern suburbs to the lower income West, who we now see the blame laid on in thinly veiled language.

The “gold standard” who failed to communicate and enforce clear guidelines on those who work amongst potential COVID-exposed people, such as the unvaccinated limo driver who was the source of the latest outbreak. We see an entire elite private school “accidentally” get vaccinated but get scolded with a “so what?” by Health Minister Brad “Health” Hazzard when asked how a mistake like that could happen.

We get told to shut up because we got government payments last year in the form of Jobkeeper, but do not get a chance to hold entitled business stalwarts like Gerry Harvey to account when they pocket millions in payments that do not flow on to their staff while their companies make record profits. All the while, I feel guilty for taking some money from Jobkeeper to pay rent, because I’ve established a career where I automatically feel like it’s wrong and selfish to be using money earned from my creative skills to live.

This will all pass. This outrage, the scandal, the headlines (or lack thereof). The virus won’t. That’s the mind numbing part. We’ve shown, as a collective, time and time again that all we care about come election time is real estate and some whacked out false sense of a “strong economy”. We use these issues as reasons to keep this coal-obsessed party in power, because we find negative gearing more important than even the biggest existential threat in climate change. We’ll continue to get spun headlines by the monopoly monster that is Rupert Murdoch, who’s most recent move in his ultimate destruction of Australia is replacing local (non-News Corp) news bulletins in regional Australia with his unstoppably-biased Sky News.

We will continue to not report a single word that comes out of the mouth of Anthony Albanese, Labor and the Greens, further entrenching this ridiculous notion that “Labor don’t do anything and the Greens are lefty whackos with no practical ideas.” It is literally impossible to mount an opposition when the media is so lopsided towards a monster company that heavily favours the incumbents. The Victorian Labor leader is branded “Dictator Dan” by News Corp for acting quickly to lock down, but Liberal Berejiklian is praised for not “inconveniencing” NSW residents with a lockdown until it is an absolute necessity.

“It all starts with acknowledgement and collective outrage. But this needs to be sustained.”

This is the fruit of a broader political climate in which we see past Labor leaders like Julia Gillard have to front an independent inquiry into her kitchen renovations, yet haven’t seen an independent inquiry into a federal minister who is accused of rape. A climate in which Barnaby Joyce, a man accused of sexual harassment, is appointed to a cabinet group formed to deal with issues of women’s safety and security.

We must invest in a broader media landscape and independent journalism. We must seek out real news, from a variety of sources. We need to pay for our news as we too need to for our art. When we expect these things to come to us for nothing, we are faced with destructive forces (and rubbish music to boot).

It all starts with acknowledgement and collective outrage. But this needs to be sustained. A few months ago I wrote of the broken music industry and its inherent imbalance, particularly towards women. There have been modest strides towards improvement, such as the removal of figures in places responsible for sustaining and fostering toxic and destructive environments, such as those we have seen in Sony Music Australia. But issues like these require sustained attention. Sustained outrage. We can’t afford to disengage with things that make us feel helpless. Simply discussing these things, spreading ideas, demanding attention, can make a world of difference.

But beyond discussion, there is one thing we can do with regards to the clown prince Scott Morrison that we can’t do with his music industry clown counterparts: Vote the charlatan out come election time.